Bart Mendoza 5 a.m., Dec. 8
Farmhouse Cafe is about to celebrate its 5th anniversary with a celebratory four-course dinner that will be served for the first three days in February. It had been a number of years since I'd last eaten at the small, quaint French bistro in University Heights. When my friend Hannah tossed it out as an option for dinner with our dudes, I said, "Oh man, I haven't been there in forever, I'd love to see what Olivier is cooking these days."
I remembered, from our frequent visits after they'd just opened, enjoying conversations with the chef that were just as pleasant as the local fresh fare he served. But, as the traffic of life bumps us from lane to lane, we'd somehow been knocked out of the groove that is Adams Avenue for a while.
When we arrived, Hannah's other half, Allard, immediately made himself comfortable. The space feels cozy, partly because of how small it is and how close together all the tables are placed, but mostly because of the welcoming smiles from the warm staff.
After a little toast, we checked out the menus, of which there were two that night: a three-course pre-fixe and the regular menu which, to my surprise, looked to be about 80 percent the same as the last time I'd been there. Allard really struggled over whether or not to get the burger. "It's the best burger, and I always get it when I'm here, but I've had a few this week already, and I probably should try something else." I remembered the burger, and I agreed that it was a damned good one. But I, too, was in the mood for something a little more... French.
Both David and Allard went for the pre-fixe, and Hannah and I ordered off the regular menu. I was happy to see the burrata was from Gioaia Cheese, where third-generation Italian cheesemaker Vito Girardi (whose grandfather was one of the first to make this style of handmade cheese) ensures his product lives up to his claim that "burrata is to mozzarella as foie gras is to chicken liver."
Everyone at the table enjoyed the chicken liver mousse (a.k.a. "legal foie"), served with house pickled veggies, whole grain mustard, and toasted baguette.
At first I'd wrinkled my brows when I saw the house made fettuccine with Moroccan spiced lamb bolognese and lemon confit. "This is still on the menu? I'd think they'd change it up some." But then Allard explained that it had gone off for a while and was back on. I couldn't remember if I'd liked it or not, so I ordered it. Bolognese is my comfort food dish of choice at Italian restaurants (and David often cooks an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink version at home), so it's always a risk, because I have my favorites for comparisons. The pasta was overcooked (the chef was not in the kitchen that night), but the flavor combination was exotic and tasty, and the lemon confit added just the right amount of sweet and sour to counter the rich lamb.
David and Allard both got the duck, which I didn't try. Allard loved his, but David's was a bit overcooked, and somewhat bland.
Hannah had the pan-seared sea bass (which I'd considered getting), with fingerling potatoes, green leek puree, and caramelized onion.
Because they'd gotten the pre-fixe, David and Allard both got dessert, which they shared with the ladies, though at that point we were too full to sample more than a spoonful.
We also shared a couple bottles of wine, though our choice of reasonably priced wines was limited. Most bottles on the list were over $50, some into the hundreds. Allard and Hannah said they usually bring their own bottle and pay the corkage. We settled for a dark and flavorful $40-something Cabernet, which went down as smoothly as the rest of the evening.
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